A team led by biologists at the University of California, San Diego has discovered a molecule in roundworms that makes them susceptible to Bacillus thuringiensis toxin, or Bt toxin—a pesticide produced by bacteria and widely used by organic farmers and in genetically engineered crops to ward off insect pests.
Their findings should facilitate the design and use of Bt toxins to prevent insects, which the researchers believe also possess the molecule, from developing resistance to Bt, extending the life of this natural pesticide.
The study, published February 11 in the journal Science, details the structure of a molecule to which Bt attaches, or “binds,” in the lining of the intestines of insects and roundworms. The molecule is a glycolipid—a lipid attached to a tree-like arrangement of sugars. Because changes in the sugars impact Bt’s ability to bind, the researchers believe that their discovery will make it possible to develop better pesticides and lead to new treatments for parasitic infections that affect close to two billion people worldwide.
Sherry Seethaler | EurekAlert!
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